15 Overused Business Words Which You Should Stop Using

15 Overused Business Words Which You Should Stop Using

Business frequently trashes language. Words are abused and repeated until they’re devoid of any actual meaning. Using those terms makes you sound like an idiot. These are the 15 words that are used most often in talking about business — and almost all of them can be avoided.

Punishment picture from Shutterstock

Business Insider reports on an analysis by Global Language Monitor which identified the terms most often used specifically in business communication. This is the list, with our comments about when that word might be acceptable and when it should be avoided:

Content: A news story or annual report can be described as content. A comment on Twitter can’t be.

Social media: It’s better to talk about the specific service being used (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) than lumping them all in the same category.

Sustainability: OK in your environmental policy. Less pleasant when talking about profitability.

Transparency: In our experience, people who make noise about transparency frequently have something to hide.

Literally: You can almost always delete this. Chances are you’re not using it correctly, and many people will judge you for making that mistake.

Guru: Avoid. Some people will interpret this as meaning ‘charlatan’.

Utilise: A fancy synonym for ‘use’, which gets the same idea across better.

Robust: It’s better to be specific about why something is robust than simply to claim that it is.

Ping: Save this for when you want to check if a site is available.

Big data: Big data needs to be large in scope, variable in structure, not already linked together, and subjected to analysis.

Nouns used as verbs (to concept, to ballpark, to impact): Stop that already.

Seamless: So overused these days as to be meaningless.

Moving forward: Meaningless blather. Cut it out.

The cloud: A service which you can easily scale up and down and which is delivered online can be said to be an example of “cloud computing”. The cloud on its own is a much more amorphous idea.

Offline: Most acceptable when your internet connection isn’t working.

Moving forward, you should literally utilise the robust services of a transparency guru to impact social media in the cloud. See why that’s a bad idea?

The 15 Most Overused Business Words Of 2013 [Business Insider]

Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


  • I don’t disagree with anything presented here.
    I could talk to these points all day.
    I’m going to flick an email around to the team advising them to eyeball this article.

  • … What is this even. So if I want to talk about the ideology of social media in your presentation I should describe it a hundred times as “Facebook, Twitter, Sina, Instagram, Pinterest..” and on and on?

    99% of this seems like just your companies personal opinions, and otherwise meaningless. Also stop trying to make it seem like you can maintain legitimacy by reposting one of your parent companies own sites as though its some reputable source.

    We see what you’re trying to do, but it just makes you look silly imo.

    • With the exception of using scoial media to refer to the collective social media sites, I agree with the fact that we need to reduce the use of all the terms in this article. It’s frustrating to hear these buzz words thrown around by people who hardly understand them, and use them in the wrong context.

      • All that should be important is intent. If the message is clear, the specific words and their level of ‘buzzword’ factor seems completely irrelevant.

        I have clients that talk in phrases such as “u shuld do this”, and to me these buzzwords allow me to decipher some meaning from what is otherwise hardly even language. If anything, we should focus on clear communication, not “word preferences”, since nobody cares if a word “annoys you”. It is meaningless to anyone, and in any context other than your own (our each own) personal mentality.

        Edit: That said, in my own mind – “IT pro” is one that really annoys me. If anyone said to me they were an “IT pro” I can and would laugh in their face. @anguskidman

  • My pet peeve is “deep dive”. Whoever coined this term in an IT context should deep dive off a cliff.

  • Whenever anyone uses this crap, I just ask with faked sincerity… “and for the English speaking amongst us?” (originally used by Rowan Atkinson’s character in The Thin Blue Line, IIRC)

    • I know, right?

      Seriously though, this list is the tip of the iceberg. I’ll see if I can find (and post up) an email that was sent to our IT Department last year when we were about to upgrade to a web-interface version of our helpdesk software. It was a huge laugh for anyone who likes to play a bit of Bullshit Bingo.

      • And I quote:

        Dear Colleagues,

        Since resetting the go-live date to ******, the project has made significant progress in testing the ******** and rectifying issues raised as a result of the testing conducted.

        A key performance breakthrough with wide ranging impact across the toolset has now been achieved with the combined efforts of *****, ***** and the project team. User community feedback on toolset performance following this performance improvement has been very positive however the unanticipated level of effort required to resolving this performance issue has now impacted on the allocated time for User Acceptance Testing and issue resolution resulting in a compressed timetable to meet the planned go-live date.

        The key impacts of this compressed timetable are reduced or insufficient time for:
        • Resolution of any further issues arising from the remainder of User Acceptance Testing
        • Review by ******* of implemented ***-proposed performance and tuning recommendations
        • Performing appropriate capacity and user experience testing
        • Final configuration and testing of the new production environment
        • Completion of operational readiness tasks
        As the risk of moving rapidly from the end of User Acceptance Testing to production status is seen as extremely high, it has been agreed by the Steering Committee that the go-live date be extended by one week to allow the necessary preparation prior to going live.

  • Overused ≠ Misused

    If you’re in a meeting with more than 2 people (particularly a conference call) and an off-topic subject/project comes up that is relevant to only 2 of the people, how do you propose asking for it be discussed outside of the meeting? I hear people say “Can we discuss this offline” at least once a week during overseas conference calls at my workplace and don’t see the issue. Happy to hear a concise and clear alternative though.

  • “to impact’ is a long-recognised verb, not a noun being used as a verb. Also, I’ll second the addition of ‘touch base’ to this list.

  • Using “Impact” when “affect”, or even “effect” is meant is the one that really grates me. Although, “utilise” instead of “use” is the near-run second worst. Thanks for mentioning that.

  • ‘Stop that already’ is also wrong, it should be ‘stop that now/immediately/or a time in the future’. The word ‘already’ is incorrectly used in the context.

  • I must disagree with this article, I use these words all the time, and it really synergises how work is done around my office. My boss has told me on many occassions how much he values the way I “think outside the box”…

      • There’s this concept called “irony”, per Google: “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.”

  • Utilise isn’t actually a synonym for use which makes it worse for me. It really means using something for your purpose rather than its purpose.
    I could use this pencil to write. I wouldn’t be utilising it to write.
    I would however be utilising it to stab someone who uses utilises incorrectly.

    And don’t start me on methodology…

  • Moving forward, our operation is a 24/7 utility utilising MBA-speak to cover up our ineptitude, laziness, and ceaseless pursuit of large management bonuses.
    Is it permitted to flick ink-splodges at such non-sensical blatherers?

  • With the list of suggestions in this article and comments, it makes me think we’re either going to go back to the stone age of speaking or start speaking in another language altogether!

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